The role of community pharmacy in helping patients live healthier lives

How can McKesson UK change patients’ perceptions about community pharmacies? That was the question that Andrew Gibb, retail operations director at McKesson UK, answered at an event held last week for medicines’ manufacturers:

There are plenty of challenges facing community pharmacy. Funding cuts from the Government and changes to prescribing behaviour are only a couple of the issues. The world is constantly changing and community pharmacy hasn’t perhaps progressed as far as other retailers in responding to customers’ habits and providing services closer to home. But we’re working in LloydsPharmacy to redress that.

Dispensing medication will remain the anchor service for our pharmacies, but these days patients want more. This is our opportunity to tailor the products and services that we offer based on those who visit our stores most regularly and those who want to access healthcare closer to home. Through a better tie in with our new speciality healthcare centres, where patients receive injections and infusions; we can provide tailored products that benefit customers who are receiving those treatments and most importantly offer additional and much needed advice.

Currently customers generally visit a community pharmacy to have their prescription dispensed but in the future, we want the services we offer to be the reason customers visit our stores. Our pharmacy teams really are our USP; they are the ones on the front line who can help people manage their health (especially in helping prevent future illness). That in turn is really rewarding for our people, knowing that they are the ones helping to improve customers’ lives. We want to support our colleagues so they can use their skills and capabilities where patients need it most so we’re giving them the tools to do that. Through the automation of prescription assembly, our teams will have more time to spend with customers and in turn can have a greater positive impact on the customers’ needs.

We also want customers to have immediate access to a pharmacist when they visit our stores. We need to be able to free up pharmacists to be the first port of call as they are the professional experts. This will enable our pharmacists to work at the top of their licence and deliver unrivalled access to healthcare service and advice not seen anywhere else in the NHS.

We already deliver a high proportion of the 10,000+ locally commissioned services contracted in the UK, but there is still room for us to offer even more. Delivering more services will give patients more choice and help ease the burden on our already stretched GPs. Each year, it is estimated that over 50 million GP appointments could be dealt with in-pharmacy. Imagine how much time we could free up for GPs if those appointments were handled by pharmacies. This would then allow our GPs to spend more time with patients who truly need more of their time and specialist knowledge, helping relieve the pressures on A&E departments.

We can’t forget the day-to-day services that our stores provide, they are still vital to our customers. However we have a unique opportunity to offer complete care, but to do this we need to be coordinated as an organisation as well as across the entire healthcare industry. We need to have better links with primary care to understand how we can all support the nation’s health. We have to prove to the NHS that community pharmacy can deliver services that improve the health of the nation and help relieve the burden on the wider NHS.

Our mind-sets have to change in order to show patients that we can offer so much more in addition to dispensing medication. We have the ability to make a real difference in our local communities, helping patients live healthier lives.